John Luther Adams
With nature as his muse, composer John Luther Adams reaches millions of listeners with music drawn from the landscapes of Alaska. His compositions offer a distinctive sound, echoing the songs of native birds, the thunder of collapsing glaciers and the driving rhythms of Inuit drumming.
From the stillness of the northern wilderness to the teeming urban soundscape, Mr. Adams reminds us that when we listen carefully we come to hear the whole world as music. His work is influencing a wave of younger composers and is reaching a growing audience beyond the confines of the concert hall.
Thousands of people heard his Inuksuit (for 99 percussionists) when it was performed outdoors in Harlem's Morningside Park and at the Armory in New York City. Alex Ross of The New Yorker called it "one of the most rapturous experiences" of his listening life.
Mr. Adams broke new ground working with seismologists and physicists to create a sound and light installation called The Place Where You Go to Listen at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. This unique and mysterious "musical ecosystem" gives voice to the rhythms of the sun, the moon, the clouds and the northern lights, through an orchestra of virtual instruments "played" by live streams of geophysical data.
Mr. Adams is the author of two books, and his music is the subject of a forthcoming anthology of essays by prominent musicians, critics and scholars. His music can be heard on more than a dozen recordings, and in frequent performances throughout the world. By translating his love of nature into music, John Luther Adams broadens and deepens our sense of wonder at the richness and beauty of the world around us.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.
UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD
February 2015 - John Luther Adams' composition, Become Ocean, receives the 2105 Grammy for best new Classical composition. Commissioned and recorded by Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, it premiered in Seattle and was performed last spring at Carnegie Hall. - The Seattle Times
January 2015 - Composer John Luther Adams wins Columbia's William Schuman Award for Lifetime Achievement, an award given over the past three decades. The award is named for the first recipient of the prize and offers a $50,000 unrestricted grant to its recipients. - The New York Times
April 2014 - John Luther Adams receives the Pulitzer prize for his new composition, Become Ocean, cited by the committee as a "haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels." - The New York Times